Tag Archives: collage

Robert Zend – Part 13. Gaskets, Thumbtacks, Toilet Paper Rolls . . . and Doodles

TITLE WITH BUSINESS CARD IMAGE AND BYLINE

Part 13. Gaskets, Thumbtacks,
Toilet Paper Rolls . . .
and Doodles

          Robert Zend dissolved boundaries, or perhaps more accurately, ignored them. The preceding eight installments demonstrated two ways in which he did so: his international outlook and his exploration of humanity’s place within the cosmos.
          In this last substantive installment, I’d like to show a third way. To create his visual art, Zend used technologies that were available to him, including the typewriter and computer. He also used whatever materials were at hand, including automotive gaskets, thumbtacks, and toilet paper rolls. Zend was also a prolific doodler, drawing his casual sketches (some quite intricate) on everything from Post-It notes to cocktail napkins.
          I hope that you enjoy this visual feast of works by an extraordinary Canadian writer and artist. I think it’s fair to say that many of these have not been seen publicly for a very long time, possibly not since his death almost thirty years ago. The time is overdue for these visual works to reach a broader audience.
          The display of works here is made possible by the kind permission of Janine Zend, who generously allowed me to view, photograph, and (in the case of the toiletters) video them.

The Toiletters

          The first time I was invited to the Zend home, in October 2013, Janine led me to the dining room table, where there was a box full of cardboard toilet paper rolls on which Robert Zend had drawn poems and designs. In his usual punning humour, he called these found objects “toiletters.” He created scores of these, also drawing on tape rolls, paper towel rolls, and mailing tubes. If it was cardboard and tubular, he drew on it. I knew that he was aesthetically versatile, but these took the notion to a new level. I immediately loved them.
          After the arrival that afternoon of Janine and Robert’s daughter, Natalie, the two showed me upstairs, where they searched around for more such objets trouvés. In a closet they found a long mailing tube on which Zend had written a poem spiraling from bottom to top.
          Spontaneously, Natalie began reading the poem while she and I slowly rotated the tube. It was a poignant moment, and I was mesmerized. I can only describe the poem as a spiritual crescendo, and as Natalie reached the top of the tube, it seemed all but inevitable that the poem would end on the word “god” or some such epiphany. Suddenly her voice halted, for the cardboard where the last word should have been had been roughly torn off. It looked as though the word had been gnawed off by a rodent. Then it hit me that the tear wasn’t caused by a mouse; it was classic Zend humour, building up anticipation and then thwarting it, in this case with silence at the height of an expected revelation.
          His choice of found object, the humble cardboard tube, rings true in the context of his writing and other visual works. The toiletters bespeak an absurdist (and scatalogical) sense of humour and a love of doodling. And he was drawn to the circularity of the tubes as he was drawn to themes involving cyclical processes of creation and destruction as well as images of the uroboros. On reflection, the ultimate household throwaway seems a natural canvas for Zend.
          I selected a few toiletters to give an idea of their variety and filmed them on a turntable (Fig. 1).

FIGURE TOILETTERS

The Gasquettes

          In a series of collages, Zend traced shapes with automotive gaskets, or “gasquettes” as he dubbed them in tongue-in-cheek eloquent French. More mundanely, he describes the objects as “automatic transmission valve-body separator gaskets . . . courtesy of Gabriel Nagy of Low Cost Automatic Transmissions, Ltd., Toronto.”1 Using these little machine parts as templates, he created highly stylized works such as the following two works in the Gasquette series (figs. 2 and 3):
ARARAT AND QUARTET

The Humble Thumbtack

          Zend found inspiration in quotidian objects like thumbtacks, pushpins, and string to create multi-media works such as Windmill (fig. 4), which manages to be simultaneously playful and haunting:
THUMBTACKS 365

Collages

          The three paper collages below (figs. 5, 6, and 7) show a range of Zend’s stylistic approaches in this medium. The lively motion and rhythm in these works have a musical effect, perhaps owing something to his background as a pianist:
BLACK WHITE RED REVISED 500
DANCERS 500 REVISED
HEAVENLY COCKTAIL PARTY 500

Typewriter and Computer Art:
Typescapes and the Polinear Series

Scattered throughout this essay you’ve seen examples of Zend’s remarkable “typescapes,” such as “Stormelancholix” from Arbormundi (fig. 8):
STORMELANCHOLIX 450 W
In this installment I’d also like to present examples of different approaches he took to typewriter art. Oāb is full of playful experimentation with typed characters to illustrate the two-dimensional characters Oāb and Ïrdu exploring the possibilities of their world of paper and ink, as in “ÏRDU IMITATES THE SNAKE, OĀB THE PREY” (fig. 9):
OAB SNAKE 550 W
and the following representation of the four creature-creators of Zend’s generational fantasy:
OAB 2 450 W
Zend was fortunate to live at a time when computer programs were being developed that allowed artists to take advantage of the possibilities of digital technology. Using such software, he created delicate works of parallel lines and concentric patterns, as in Polinear No. 3 (fig. 11):
POLINEAR NO 3 459 H

The Doodles

          An overview of Zend’s visual works would not be complete without a gallery of his doodles. I knew that Zend was a compulsive and prolific doodler, but it was not until I began researching his fonds that I began to understand the sheer number and scope of these off-the-cuff scribblings. His restless creative energy spilled over onto any paper product in sight, be it party napkin, doctor’s tablet, Post-It note, manila folder, or toilet paper roll — all were an invitation to play. If he ran out of paper, he would doodle on the back of a drawing he just made. Thirty-five years later, I was finding these little drawings scattered throughout the scores of boxes in the Zend fonds. Who says research has to be dull?
          The doodles are by turns humorous, beautiful, erotic, abstract, and punning, and often a hybrid such as comic-erotic. He took especial delight in caricatures and intricate monograms. Sometimes his sketches turned into ideas for typescapes or other works, and sometimes they seem to be outlines for longer visual sequences. In the punning category, he created a collection of visual/verbal puns entitled How Do Yoo Doodle?, which he produced as coloured slides.
          Zend was a paper hoarder – the wastebasket was his enemy. Janine points out that this may have been a reaction to having lost everything, including all of his poetry, during his escape from Hungary in 1956. How fortunate that after that loss he saved every scrap, and that after his death Janine took great care in archiving all of his papers, from the gorgeous and labour-intensive typescapes to the humblest scratchings on an envelope.
          The following gallery contains a sampling that I gleaned from the Zend fonds as well as a selection from How Do Yoo Doodle?
          Behold Zend’s doodles, like sparks flying from a creative mind that never seemed to rest.
FIGURE DOODLES
You can hover your cursor over the image for pause, reverse, and forward buttons.

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Next Installment —
Afterword: Citizen of the Macrocosm


Camille Martin

“Sleep and Forgetting”: a new collage

My most recent collage, “Sleep and Forgetting.” The title is from William Wordsworth’s “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood.”

The original is sold, but the work is available as an archival print mounted on stained wood panel.

“Sleep and Forgetting” is now uploaded to my website’s Gallery 5, “Afterimages of History.” Click the image to link to the gallery:


Camille Martin

“Poetry, Art, Music—and the Gift of Synesthesia” (an image essay in Talking Writing)

A couple of years ago, Talking Writing published some poems of mine from Looms, a manuscript that has recently been published by Shearsman Books.

Martha Nichols, one of the editors, recently approached me about writing an illustrated essay about what it’s like to work in three disciplines: poetry, collage, and music.

I invite you to have a look at the resulting featured spread in Talking Writing and to explore the rest of the issue, which will be added to during the next few weeks.

Click the image below to view my collages and essay:


Camille Martin

Film Noir collage

I just added the collage below to the “Americana” gallery of my website:

The alternating strips are stills from two different films noirs. When I was researching the genre for this project, I found a lavishly illustrated book of film noir posters. Some were in monochromatic half-tones, which inspired me to tint the two stills as a way to allude to this type of poster as well as to contrast the alternating strips. I had tried several combinations of images, but the arrangement of these two seemed to allow a mysterious and compelling interaction between the characters and shadows.


Camille Martin

Collage: An Interview with Camille Martin

Gimme! (for National Poetry Month)

Gimme, one of my ransom note collages, is featured today on the National Poetry Month website, curated by Amanda Earl. This year, the focus is on visual poetry. Every day, an image by a different visual poet will be uploaded on her site.

Here’s a peek:

Click here to see the whole paean to greed.

 


 

Camille Martin

Scissors and paper and glue—oh my!

          The photos below are from a collage workshop that I recently facilitated for a fifth grade class at Homestead Public School. The students were so excited and absorbed in their “hand art”—what a privilege it is to see children’s minds at work!
          Many thanks to the students’ teacher, Ms. Danforth, and principal, Ms. Norman, for making my visit possible; to Alexus for her smart and on-target interview questions; and to each member of Ms. Danforth’s class for sharing their creations with me.

Beautiful!

The students displaying their colourful "hand-art"

interview with Alexus

 


 

Camille Martin

Recipes from the Red Planet: Meredith Quartermain’s Martian Feast

Recipes from the Red Planet by Meredith Quartermain
Susan Bee, illustrator
(Toronto: Book Thug, 2010)
order from Small Press Distribution
order from Book Thug

cover collage: Susan Bee


            Meredith Quartermain’s Recipes from the Red Planet pays homage in its title and inspiration to Jack Spicer’s notion of the poet as a conduit of language that seems to come from a source other than a consciously creating self, Martian signals being his memorable metaphor for this otherness of the poetic voice. But voice it is nonetheless, and whatever metaphor serves to describe the source of the poetic energy (Martians, radio signals, parasites, or invaders), the voices in Quartermain’s prose poems take center stage as they rant, apostrophize, soliloquize, surreal-ize, tell tall tales. Her stage is populated by a host of selves and others engaged in playful—often seriously playful—dialogue, and fittingly illustrated by six wonderfully quirky and surreal collages by Susan Bee.
            Book Thug appropriately placed this collection in its Department of Narrative Studies series: even when the speaking voices and time dimension of the stories seem most fractured, thing happen and voices talk about them. The narratives’ layered effect gives the illusion of alien languages and customs from different planets colliding to form new alien cultures that come into being in the act of reading. And the overlapping narratives create meaning that is in its own mysterious way decipherable yet also porous to allow variations of understanding and delight.
            Perhaps it’s apropos that poetry claiming, tongue in cheek, alien provenance doesn’t come across as traditional lyrical, meditative poetry. In Recipes from the Red Planet, there’s a wildness, often breathlessness, to the voices that broadcast dramatic and narrative speech celebrating the free, unfettered riffing of imagination.
            Unfettered isn’t synonymous, however, with disengaged. Although some poems in the collection revel in linguistic play for its own sake (not to say that such play isn’t politically engaged, at least not overtly), the playful stream of words more often than not swarms around and explores something of concern to her—a memory, a place, or social injustice, for example. Such concerns are what Spicer called the poet’s personal “furniture,” which the “Martians” work with, arrange, and invest with clues. For Spicer, the furniture—the poet’s language, memory, knowledge, idiosyncrasies as a human being—are not as relevant as his or her ability to clear the room of personal desire (“this is what I want the poem to say”) and allow the Martians to inhabit the furnished space and their voices to stream, as if through a neutral conduit, into the typing fingers.
            But the furniture is there nonetheless—Spicer never claimed that poetic dictation involved becoming a tabula rasa and letting go of one’s beliefs, but that in allowing an otherness to flow through, those beliefs might not come across the way one expected. If a poet wants to write about Vietnam, Spicer says, the Martians might end up talking about about ice-skating in Vermont (as Norman Mailer did when he exposed the horrors of the Vietnam War by telling the tale of an unsportsman-like bear hunt in Alaska).
            Quartermain’s perspectives on feminism, corporate misconduct, and the rescue of voices lost to the shadows of history come through clearly, and true to Spicer’s ideas about poetic dictation, these ideas are voiced by her “Martians” in wild tangents, unexpected flights, and strange juxtapositions. Personal opinion has not left the room, but a chorus of voices (and here the invasion metaphor seems apt) swarm into the room, rearranging the furniture as they please, creating surreal parables and buildings haunted with swirling voices. Agenda may seem secondary to the thrill of linguistic play, yet that ludic impulse is also intimately intertwined with the political. In the tradition of dystopian science fiction’s tactic of cognitive estrangement1, Quartermain’s Martians defamiliarize the inhumanity that is too often taken for granted, providing fresh perspectives on the troubled history of Earthlings.
            One poem that exemplifies such defamiliarization while also invoking Spicer’s Martian metaphor is the delightfully comical “A Disagreement over Lunch.” A woman asserts to a man over lunch that architecture is not only a human activity but a phenomenon of living beings—ants, for instance—that manipulate their environment under biological pressure: a decidedly anti-heroic point of view. But the man, firmly in the Ayn Rand camp, prefers to see the architecture of humans as heroically creative and uniquely above animal constructions.
            As they debate, however, a surreal drama unfolds: an eggplant-cum-football enters the room, hovers over a fruit bowl, lays eggs, and releases tiny creatures that roll their caravans and wagons over the peaches. The voice that narrates the surreal vision of the eggplant-blimp is ambiguous about the creatures and seems to debate itself: did the eggplant release ants or tiny humans? Thus the poem moves from the debate between the diners to a debate of the narrating voice at odds with itself, or at least unable to decide.
            This refusal of the narrating voice to take a position, to reason politically, and side with one or the other, is part of the subtle brilliance of Quartermain’s approach. The trope of the Martian’s bird’s-eye view allows the consideration of human behaviour from an alien perspective: a Martian anthropologist, presumably unfamiliar with the imposed hierarchy of life that humans often assume in their anthropocentric hubris, would likely have a broader perspective on the commonalities of living creatures. But the narrating voice, instead of simply siding with the woman (which is apparent, in any case), embraces the rhetoric of debate (ants? humans?) and ends on a note of undecidability, thus bringing ants and humans into the same realm, parading in lines and shaping their world.
            Like Spicer, Quartermain (or should I say, her Martians?) uses and rearranges the “furniture” of mythology, in her case to offer a feminist spin on patriarchal Greek myths. In “Sewing,” the aptly-named Mrs. Shears of Home-Ec is an unlikely but nonetheless quietly heroic feminist as she teaches her students to sew, all the while spinning yarns (so to speak) and debunking the partriarchal assumptions of ancient myths: it’s the women who kept home safe for the men, not the other way around; Andromeda was saved by a Minoan queen, not her future husband, Perseus. Thus Mrs. Shears teaches her students to stitch together their own stories without relying on prejudicial myths, and plants the idea that it is they who “piece reality together.”
            Quartermain’s collection revels in imaginative wordplay, and some poems, such as “Snow” just seem linguistically to shimmer for the pure joy of it:

“down steady down fall flake down by flake down round cloud-whirl tree by roof by frolicsome milk-wing flight-of-steps runaway runway quick lattice icicle faceted minikin clusters wittily mimical silica ventriloquy down by down by down doors porches by churches banks frosty postage to rustle and bluster downtown towers flour the tree-bark fringe the stones the hedges the wires the trellises tickle crystal thickety particle curriculum [. . .]”

I can add nothing that wouldn’t spoil the fun of the poem.
            And I could wax on about some of my favourites in Quartermain’s collection, such as “My City,” “Future Past,” “Fabulous Moderne,” “She would,” “The Plackener,” “Hotel Narrative.” But before I outstay the Martians’ welcome, I’ll end by briefly alluding to “The Sonic Boom” and returning to the idea, so important to Spicer’s poetics: sidestepping one’s own desires about the poem being written and allowing something else much stranger to speak through the poem and perhaps “say just exactly the opposite of what he wants himself, per se poet, to say” (Spicer 6). Quartermain’s “The Sonic Boom Catcher” hits the bull’s eye of the poet’s dilemma in implementing Spicer’s idea of writing as dictation. The paradox of the title beautifully sums up Spicer’s advice, quoted by Quartermain in her index: “You have to not really want not what you don’t want to say.” The trickiness of untangling that triple negative is like the trickiness of writing—you can’t fool the “Martians”; all you can do, says Spicer, is prepare the room and get rid of the personal.
            “The Sonic Boom Catcher” could also be read as a parable of the slipperiness of desire: once you have what you want, it ceases to be the object of desire, because the object of desire is desire itself. Readiness, patience, and a quieting of desire lure the Martians to the poet’s antennae.
            Recipes from the Red Planet is a paean to the imagination, sometimes madcap, sometimes pensive, but always generously liberating. Her description of the tree the speaker has given birth to in “Dear Mom,” is an apt mantra for the spirit of the book: “Merrythought. Willy nilly bodacious. Willy nilly lexiludic.” And imagination is just as often a celebration of its own play as an exploration of social and political engagement.
            It’s impossible to summarize the wealth of themes and the explosion of wordplay in this collection, and my review cannot do it justice. How to describe being a guest at Quartermain’s Martian banquet? You just have to be there.

collage: Susan Bee



1 See Darko Suvin’s work on science fiction.

Work Cited
Spicer, Jack. The House That Jack Built: The Collected Lectures of Jack Spicer. Ed. Peter Gizzi. Hanover, New Hampshire: University of New England, 1998.



Camille Martin

New upcoming events – poetry and collage

Just uploaded some new information into my Upcoming Events page:


COLLAGE EXHIBIT

Sunday, December 12 – Thursday, December 23, 2010
Toronto: Arta Gallery at The Distillery / 55 Mill Street
Three limited-edition collage prints on exhibit and available for purchase, such as this one:

The Birth of Newton


POETRY WORKSHOP

Five Tuesdays: March 15 – April 12, 2011, 6:30 – 8:30 pm
Toronto New School of Writing
click here for details & registration


POETRY READING

Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Toronto: The Pivot at The Press Club / 850 Dundas Street West


COLLAGE EXHIBIT

June 2011
Toronto Public Library, Woodside Square Branch
Twelve limited-edition collage prints on exhibit and available for purchase

death’s head redux

bounty from the sea


I posted a collage for the anthropomorphic category in Poemicstrip. Check out the fantastic work there!

Continuing a recent post about my breast cancer, this collage is another of the death’s heads that started popping up in my collages and some of the poems in Sonnets following my diagnosis four years ago. I didn’t think until after the collage was finished about the significance of the two masks under the wings: breasts, either cleansed of the disease or drained of life.

Thanks to Piotr Szreniawski for sharing Poemicstrip.
“bounty from the sea” first appeared on the cover of Fell Swoop 86.

 


 

Camille Martin

on the anniversary of my healing from breast cancer


In September 2006, a little less than a year after I moved to Toronto from New Orleans, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. This month marks the four-year anniversary of the beginning of my healing: surgery followed by several months of chemo and radiation therapy.

During that time, I was haunted by thoughts of mortality. Sometimes collage and poetry gave me a way to explore my feelings as I was confronted with the possibility that I might not survive. Death’s heads crept into several of my collages, such as the sinister stone frieze in the background of the collage above. And I can see that haunting in the dark tone of some of the poems in Sonnets.

I’ve never written publicly about my breast cancer, and though I don’t often delve into personal matters in this blog, I wanted to finally be open about it. Maybe someday I’ll write more about the experience. But for now I just want to say that I’m grateful to my caring doctors and nurses at St. Micheal’s and Princess Margaret Hospitals in Toronto (without whom I’d no doubt not be alive today), my loving partner, Jiri, and my amazing family and friends who rallied to help me through that difficult time.

Every year reduces the likelihood of recurrence. And every day of life is a blessing.

Camille

* “R” was first published by experiment-o, an online poetry and visual arts magazine published by Amanda Earl’s AngelHousePress in Ottawa.

shell bud (for Hanna)


 
 
Camille Martin
http://www.camillemartin.ca

two collages

a double exposure remembers



full circle



Camille Martin
http://www.shearsman.com/pages/books/catalog/2010/martin.html

Jiří Kolář

My partner, Jiri, just arrived back from Czechoslovakia and Paris and brought home some gifts from Jan Sekal, a friend in Paris who is a professional photographer: for Jiri, a black rabbit felt fedora that suits him to a T (without making him look orthodox). For me, a signed, original collage by Jiří Kolář:

The collage consists of two postcards, one of La Place des Vosges with the central grounds torn out, and the other of Portrait des trois hommes by Vincent François André showing through the gap. It’s fairly simple in its execution, but deceptively simple in what it evokes. The gap looks alternately like a reflecting pond in a small-scale model of the Place des Vosges, in which two giants are reflected (the third giant is out of sight, just to the right of the gap), and a window into the fantastical depths of the earth. It also looks like what it is, its process. The materials are found, as in so many collages: two superimposed postcards in dialogue with each other through the torn hole.

I was holding an original collage by one of my most admired artists, and felt a visceral connection with the past that has inspired some of my collages. I felt a little giddy.

Jan also gave us both some of his own photographs, which I will post in the next couple of days.

Thanks, Jan.

Camille Martin
Sonnets

in-flight collage

I’m back in Toronto after my rather hectic reading tour in Europe for Sonnets and some much-needed relaxation in Paris with Jiri. Below’s a collage that I made to pass the time during my flight home, using images torn from the Air France magazine . . . More when I recover from the jetlag . . .



Camille Martin
http://www.shearsman.com/pages/books/catalog/2010/martin.html

a collage for the new year


 

under the dome

collage: Camille Martin

collage: Camille Martin


 


 

Camille Martin
http://www.camillemartin.ca

The Birth of Newton

Collage by Camille Martin

Collage by Camille Martin

 

more collages
here

 


 

Camille Martin
http://www.camillemartin.ca

Desert Gold

Desert Gold (collage by Camille Martin)

Desert Gold (collage by Camille Martin)



more collages
here

 


 


Camille Martin
http://www.camillemartin.ca

Square Foot Show, Toronto


I’m excited about the first public showing of my collage-prints, at the Square Foot Show in Toronto. The main stipulation for this group show is that the works be exactly one foot square. It’s a huge show, so there will be lots and lots to see. If you’re in Toronto, come to the reception or visit the gallery while the show is up.

100A Ossington Avenue, Toronto
(a few blocks north of AWOL Gallery)
Show dates: Saturday, August 15, – September 6, 2009
Artists Reception: Saturday, August 15, 2009, 7 pm
Gallery Hours: Th – Sa 12-6 pm / Su 1-5 pm

A recent work (obviously not in the show):

mermaid-resized-450

 


 

Camille Martin
http://www.camillemartin.ca